By Gary Blankenship
President-elect Eugene Pettis has set up a special commission to spend the next three years studying the “future practice of law.”
Called “Commission 2016: Comprehensive Study of the Future Practice of Law,” it has won approval in concept from the Program Evaluation Committee and was explained to the Bar Board of Governors at its May 31 meeting in Sarasota.
“We’ve all felt the practice of law is changing,” Pettis said. “I started in 1985 and what we do today looks drastically different than what we did 10 years ago.”
He said he discussed the idea with President Gwynne Young and President-elect Designate Greg Coleman with the idea of creating a long-term study.
“It will be a commission that will focus on the critical issues . . . that are going to impact the practice of law. This commission is one that is going to travel at least over three administrations. We have the name Commission 2016,” Pettis told the board. “It’s going to be a comprehensive study of a few areas of law.”
He said the commission has four committees to look at specific issues:
* Technology. That committee, headed by Coleman, will look “at technology in every possible fashion from the impact of the cloud, privacy issues, to client expectations, and how with technology we can interact with the courts. We talked about the hours spent traveling to court for a five-minute hearing and how with the technology that’s available those hearings could take place at your desk over a computer.” Pettis said he expects to include court administrators, judges, and other players in the legal system on this committee, which will seek to make law practice more efficient.
* Legal education. Board member Ray Abadin will chair this committee, with Nova Southeastern Law Professor Debra Curtis serving as vice chair. “The ABA is really hot on legal education and they have a task force coming out with a preliminary report in August on legal education,” Pettis said.
Topics to be studied include the three-year model of law school, accreditation standards, different levels of accreditation, ways to decrease the costs of law school, and the proliferation of law schools.
* Bar admission. Board member Lanse Scriven will chair this committee. Pettis said it will look at reciprocity, pro hac vice, licensing of nonlawyers to do some things now considered legal work, and national and international firms that want to practice in Florida. “We as leaders need to make sure we are on the forefront of bar admission issues,” he said.
* Pro bono and legal services. Board member Adele Stone, a former president of The Florida Bar Foundation, will chair this group. “That’s an area we clearly know is a problem in our state and communities, one of which we have not come up with a solution and one we cannot ignore,” Pettis said.
Board member Jay Cohen will serve as administrator for the commission.
Pettis hopes to have all members appointed by the end of June or early July, and he expects to have periodic reports for the board on the commission’s various issues.